Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the U.S., and occurs in both men and women, particularly those with a long-term smoking history. It is the cause of one in every three cancer deaths and is more common than breast, prostate and colon cancer deaths combined.
To help improve a person's chance of surviving lung cancer, a new annual, low-dose CT (computed tomography) lung cancer screening program will begin in September at Salem Community Hospital (SCH). The lung cancer screening is modeled after mammography, which has been highly successful in detecting breast cancer.
"The lung cancer screening at SCH uses a low-dose CT scan to identify signs of lung cancer," explained Radiologist Peter Apicella, M.D., Co-Director of the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Salem Community Hospital. "This allows doctors to intervene sooner and increase the chances that the cancer can be treated successfully. The goal of annual lung cancer screening is to detect lung cancer at a small size before it has spread, just like mammography is used to detect breast cancer. This is when the lung cancer has a greater chance of being cured."
Salem Buckeye Elementary School secretary Michelle Bowers and new principal John Lundin pose outside the school on Buckeye Avenue, ready to welcome students for a new year of learning. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
What is Low-Dose CT Lung Screening?
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine based on the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial, proved that people at high risk for lung cancer, who are followed by annual low-dose CTs, have a 20 percent reduction in lung cancer deaths compared with using traditional chest x-rays.
"Unlike a chest x-ray which produces only shadows of the lungs, the low-dose CT technique provides high-resolution 3-D images of the lungs in just a few seconds," explained Dr. Apicella. "In addition, there is minimal radiation, no special diet or preparation needed, no holding of medications, and no injections used. The exam is very fast and patients will not even have to change into hospital gowns."
Beginning in September, SCH will provide low-dose CT lung cancer screening to eligible participants at the cost of just $99. The screening is part of the Hospital's community outreach program to patients of physicians on the Hospital's medical staff and local residents within the Hospital's service area. The new lung cancer screening is not currently covered by Medicare or most insurance companies.
"Eligibility for the low-dose CT lung cancer screening will be based on several criteria determined by national medical organizations," Dr. Apicella said, "including the person's age, amount of years spent smoking, and risk factors for lung cancer."
Eligible Participants for Screening
- Age 55 or Older: Current smoking history of 30 or more pack years, or if the person has quit smoking within the past 15 years with a prior smoking history.
- Age 50 or Older: Smoking history of 20 or more pack years with increased risk factors for lung cancer, such as COPD or emphysema; environmental or occupational exposure, such as asbestos, chemical inhalation, coal miner or pottery/clay worker; prior lung cancer or a family history of lung cancer.
Those interested in participating in the annual lung cancer screening program should contact their primary care physician for a referral. If you are looking for a physician, please call the SCH Medical Staff Office at 330-332-7213, to receive a directory of physicians affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's Medical Staff.
Current smokers, who participate in the screening, will be offered information about smoking cessation, along with other types of cancer screening examinations. In addition, financial assistance may be available through the Hospital's Charitable Foundation for those facing financial challenges.
"By having annual low-dose CT lung screening, long-term smokers and others at high-risk will have the best chance of being diagnosed and receiving treatment when lung cancer is identified at an early stage," Dr. Apicella concluded. "This screening should make a difference in lung cancer survival, just like mammography has made a difference in breast cancer survival.
"Because lung cancer is more common in the elderly and those with a long-term smoking history, family members should consider talking with their loved ones about having this yearly examination. Quitting smoking is the most important step to reducing the risk of lung cancer, but low-dose CT lung screening may help detect lung cancer at an earlier stage and help improve treatment."
For more information about the lung cancer screening exam, please contact the SCH Medical Imaging Department at 330-332-7131. Dr. Peter Apicella, Radiologist, and Dr. Lawrence Schmetterer, Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeon, are Co-Directors of the Lung Cancer Screening program.